Last updated on Jan 31st, 2021 at 04:53 pm

You probably think that your baby is safe from the moment she’s buckled up, but these common mistakes may compromise her car seat’s function.

ALSO SEE: What to look for when buying an infant car seat

Only 15% of South Africans strap their children in car seats, according to #CarSeatFullStop, a national car seat awareness campaign. It’s a horrifying statistic, but equally frightening is the thought that your little one might not be entirely safe, even if she is buckled up.

ALSO SEE: Why you should always buckle up

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Here are some common pitfalls to watch out for:

  • Buying a second-hand seat. We know that children’s paraphernalia is pricey, and while it makes sense to save on prams or cots, you can’t take a chance with car seats – you just never know if parts are missing. What’s more, car seats are said to have an expiry date and you also don’t know whether or not the one you are buying has been in an accident. That being said, if you have no other choice but to buy a second-hand seat, get in touch with Wheel Well who will hook you up with a safe second-hand car seat.
  • Installing it yourself. Before you argue that you’ve read the manual, consider that many problems with car seats have been caused by incorrect installation. While you’re paying for the car seat, ask one of the store assistants to assemble and install it – it’s worth the extra five minutes.

ALSO SEE: 6 steps to check if your baby or toddler’s car seat is installed correctly

  • The harness is too loose. Ever experienced whiplash? It’s not pleasant – so imagine what it would feel like for your baby to accelerate forward at great speed. This is what happens if her harness is too loose. Make sure it is tight enough to fit only one finger between her collarbone and the strap.
  • Switching to a forward-facing seat too soon. We all know the pain of hearing a child screaming from the back seat, a problem many moms solve by changing the view – after all, who wants to stare at the back of a chair while you drive? But the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that children remain in rear-facing seats until they’re two.
  • Using an infant car seat on the front passenger seat in a car with airbags. If you’re in an accident and the airbag deploys, it can result in serious injury in your child and even death. Only use the front passenger seat if you have no other choice and ensure the front airbag is off.
  • Adding extras like a pillow or blanket. Car seats are tested with just the car seat in question. If you add accessories you may be tampering with the safety of the seat. Adding an insert won’t harm your child, but bundling her in jackets and blankets can be harmful in an accident. The extra bulk compresses in an accident and the harness becomes loose. Rather cover your baby with a light blanket after you’ve buckled her into her seat.